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  • Writer's pictureProf. Dr. med. Felix Nensa

FHIR: The Established Standard for the Future of Healthcare Data Interoperability

Prof. Dr. med. Felix Nensa, founder of Firemetrics and a pioneer for FHIR in Europe, recently spoke at the HIMMS conference in Rome about the crucial role of FHIR data for interoperability in the European healthcare system. Nensa, who early on converted the entire University Hospital Essen to FHIR and now oversees more than 1.5 billion FHIR resources, emphasized the importance of this standard for the future of healthcare.



The Breakthrough of FHIR as an Interoperability Standard

The EU's decision to establish FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) as the standard for healthcare data interoperability was made in 2023 and marks a significant milestone. Applications like electronic patient records (ePA) will soon communicate in the same language across Europe. This not only simplifies data exchange between different systems and organizations but also improves patient care through more precise and faster availability of healthcare data.

 

Prof. Dr. med. Sylvia Thun has played a crucial role in this initiative. As the Chair of the Expert Panel for Interoperability in the German Healthcare System (InterOp Council) and a Professor of Digital Medicine and Interoperability at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, she has been a driving force behind the adoption of FHIR. Her efforts since 2018 have culminated in the current standard, which aligns with modern web technologies and has been rigorously tested and validated worldwide.

 

The European eHealth Network, a voluntary collaboration based on the 2011/24/EU Directive, has been instrumental in this progress. This directive, primarily focused on cross-border healthcare cost reimbursement, also emphasized the need for standardized data exchange. The network's goal is to enhance cooperation and data sharing among member states, facilitating common identification and authentication measures to support seamless cross-border healthcare.


Benefits of FHIR in Healthcare

FHIR was developed by Health Level Seven (HL7), an international standards organization, and offers numerous benefits:

  • Quick and Easy Implementation: FHIR uses resources that are transferred with common internet languages and protocols like HTTP/HTTPS or XML.

  • Flexibility and Scalability: FHIR enables complex data queries and real-time analysis, which is particularly advantageous in large institutions like the University Hospital Essen, but also for software vendors.

  • Enhanced Patient Safety: By capturing healthcare data precisely and consistently, patient safety is significantly increased.


Challenges in Implementing FHIR

Despite the advantages, there are still numerous challenges in implementing FHIR. One of the biggest hurdles is the lack of interoperability within and between hospitals. Many hospitals and software manufacturers face the task of converting their systems to FHIR and ensuring they are compatible with each other. This requires not only technical adjustments but also organizational changes and extensive staff training.

Another issue is the integration of FHIR into existing systems, often based on outdated standards. Transitioning to FHIR can be time-consuming and costly, as it is necessary to convert old data formats and ensure all systems communicate smoothly. Additionally, software manufacturers need to adapt their products and ensure they are FHIR-compatible.


The Role of Firemetrics

Firemetrics offers a state-of-the-art FHIR-based interoperability solution designed to enable seamless data sharing and real-time analysis across system boundaries. Our powerful, standards-compliant FHIR server and user-friendly tools for data querying and analysis help hospitals and software developers maximize efficiency and accuracy in healthcare delivery.


Firemetrics offers:

  • A powerful, standards-compliant FHIR server: This enables the secure and efficient exchange of healthcare data.

  • Easy, complex data queries via SQL or no-code builder: This allows users to gain valuable insights from data.

  • Tools to ease development work: These help simplify and accelerate the integration of FHIR into existing systems.


Outlook

The introduction of FHIR as a European standard for healthcare data interoperability is a crucial step towards improving patient care and efficiency in healthcare. Firemetrics plays a central role by providing innovative solutions and expertise to support this transformation. Prof. Dr. med. Felix Nensa and his team are committed to shaping and driving the future of healthcare data interoperability.


Visit our blog regularly to learn more about our progress and the latest developments in FHIR and interoperability. Together, we can revolutionize healthcare delivery.

 

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